Diamond In The Rough: 1940 Diamond T

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Diamond T trucks were commonly known as the “Cadillac of trucks.” The company was founded in Chicago in 1905 when C.A. Tilt, the son of a Chicago shoe manufacturer built his first cars. But by 1911, Tilt decided that his future was in commercial vehicles, and that started a 56 year run for the Diamond T company.

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The story goes that the company name came about when Tilt’s father created a logo out of the diamond shape (to signify quality) and the “T” for Tilt inside it. You can find a pretty comprehensive company history here, written by a gentleman named Merv Bergman.

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The website includes the story of Merv’s 1940 Diamond T Model 201 truck he rescued from a barn in 1972 and restored in 2009 (this is the “before” picture.)

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Just the other day, Barn Finds reader Michael C sent us a link to this cool 1940 Diamond T truck that is for sale on the Western Slope of Colorado. While this truck looks like similar to the model 201, Mr. Bergman restored, this one is a heavier duty model 306 with a GVW of 11,000 pounds.

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The Craigslist ad for the truck is, shall we say, “spare” in its description – “clear co title almost no rust” – but the photos in the ad do show what appears to be a fully restorable old Diamond T, ready for someone with mechanical skills to have at it.

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C.A. Tilt apparently frequently said that trucks do not need to be “homely,” and his Diamond T trucks were stylish and good looking vehicles that stood out on the highways of America for many years.

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I am old enough to remember seeing some of these older models still hard at work around the town where I grew up, and much like REOs of the same era, these trucks always looked cool going down the road. Though as the ID plate indicates, not at a rapid rate of speed.

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Restoring this example will be a lot of work; just transporting it from where it sits will be a major undertaking. The engine looks complete and like it might even be runnable, but the new owner will have to fabricate or source a bed for this truck.

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But trucks like this one deserve to be saved, and I sure do hope someone will take it on as a project. At some point it ought to look like this one I found for sale in Hemmings.

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. Rob

    Cool.. tho the statement “almost no rust” might be stretching it a bit. Personally, it’d be easier (make that cheaper) to build it with a stake-bed like this example, rather than the dump. But your right David, somebody should save her, just won’t be me.

  2. Van

    I want that Rolls V12 for this.
    Build a pickup bed.
    Use supper singles in back.

  3. alder

    Is it for sale, or does anyone know of a restorable diamond t available? Average skills but would love to work on one

  4. Howard A Member

    Thanks David, go ahead, give that knife a turn. I’ll explain. I had a 1949 Diamond T 201 pickup for almost 30 years. Here’s the story, ( if you have to go to the bathroom, go now, because I’m not stopping,,,I’ll wait,,,,) Back in the early 80’s, I was walking thru a truck junkyard in S. Wis. when I happened upon an old red pickup with no wheels, but in pretty good shape. I had never seen anything like it before. The name plates on the hood were missing, so I couldn’t tell what it was. When I opened the hood, I saw that tag, Diamond T, what the heck is that? Had a little different dash gauges, and the motor turned, I had to have it. When I asked the guy how much, he said, how about a hundred bucks. :0,,, I said, I’ll be right back. Dragged it onto a flatbed, and it was mine. Got it running, but the wheels were a tough find. 16 inch Dayton tube style. ( I believe these bigger trucks used 20 inch) Looked high and low ( remember, the 80’s, no internet) finally, found another yard that the guy thought he may have one. Sure enough a 201, but it had a milk delivery body on it. He wanted $200 bucks for it, so I bought it, mostly for the wheels, but it had many other parts I used, but no name plates. Further research revealed another yard, that had a Diamond T cabover, with the name plates. Eureka! Had a lot of fun with that truck, except it was pretty slow. Crash box 4 speed, and 1 ton rating, and yes, it rode like the proverbial lumber wagon, but the old Hercules ran great. I joined ATHS ( American Truck Historical Society) and for many years, hob-nobbed with other Diamond T owners. Then came the big “D”, divorce. The judge had no sense of humor, and ordered me to pay ( insert Jerry Reed’s song, “She got the gold mine, I got the shaft”) I had a good friend that always wanted it, so I sold it to him in 2000 for $4,000. It broke my heart, but at least I know where it is. That’s my story.
    A restored 201 sold at BJ last year for $97,000 bucks. Not to worry, there is a big following for these, and it may just become a rat-rod, but it’s better than nothing, I suppose.

    • geomechs geomechs Member

      Hi Howard. Every time I see a Diamond T, I think about you. That had to be a devastating blow to have to sell a beloved truck like that; I can’t imagine how I’d feel, other than extremely bitter. I guess knowing that it went to a good home would offer some solace but that’s still not the same as having it parked in your driveway.

      • Howard A Member

        Thanks, geomechs, I know, but I’ve made peace with that, you know, better to have loved and lost,,,,blah, blah, blah. We’ve had discussion on this before, but you are the one of the few people that know how these trucks were built. They were overbuilt, and cost twice the price of a Ford or Chevy, which is why they are somewhat rare. As the David points out, there was a status to owning a Diamond T, like a Cadillac. The 30’s were really the hey-day for the fancy Diamond T’s, and by the time this model came out, they had already begun to “cheapen” them up, but one could still deck it out with chrome wheel covers and grill. Even when they were bought out by White in the late 50’s, and became Diamond-REO, they were still on par with a Kenworth or Peterbilt. I’m glad I got to experience a truck like that.

  5. roger

    That truck will become a rat rod.They love those big trucks

  6. Van

    First time I saw one it was a 39 I just thought, AL Capone booze wagon, tommy guns mounted on the front fenders.

  7. Charles

    It looks mostly complete

  8. Ed P

    54 mph does not sound fast today, but this truck was built before the Interstate Highway System. Roaring down a 1940’s country highway was probably quite exhilarating.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Ed, while that’s true, I doubt this truck would do 54 mph downhill with a 30 mph tail wind. I believe I had mine up to 48 mph once, and it felt like the world was coming apart. Back then, you got there when you got there. No cell phones calling you every 10 minutes, “where are you now”?

      • Ed P

        54 may have been possible without a load in the lab!!!

  9. Gay Car Nut Tacoma

    Lovely looking Diamond T. I’ve always loved this generation Diamond T trucks.

  10. Ken Jantzi

    I have a 1941 406 #4062637 but some guys tell me that no civilian 1941 trucks were sold. I have no documentation as the mice were hungry. Can anyone decipher the numbers to tell me the correct year? Thanks – Ken

    • mike ferrero

      Hi there yes there was trucks made in 41 I have a 41 201 diamond t pickup and it is not a milatery truck I think they didn’t make any starting in 1942 because of the war good luck

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